Expert Answers is a series of weekly articles with expert answers to important questions about language and language acquisition. This is the first in the series.
Reading FAQ (frequently asked questions) is a fascinating little book by Frank Smith. In it he answers questions that people have asked him about reading. Many of his answers are helpful for people acquiring a new language. Today’s question:
So how do we learn to read?
Here’s what Smith says:
Reading teaches us to read. Every time we read a story, we learn a little more about reading, whether we are a child just beginning or an adult with years of experience.
That’s one reason reading is good for us. And the second reason is that reading is a perfect way of becoming acquainted with stories that teach us more about the world in an enjoyable and satisfying way.
Reading teaches us about aspects of the world that we could never otherwise experience, and even about worlds that we could never imagine.
Reading helps make us who we are, just like any kind of experience.
But reading is a particularly powerful kind of experience, because it engages us … in a fully focused manner. When a book grabs us, we leave the world around us and enter the world of the book. We are caught up in it.
A third reason
The third reason reading is so good for us is that when we read the way Smith describes – engaged, focused, and “grabbed” by the book – our language improves. It works for everyone – those who have just begun their language journey and those who have been traveling for a long time. Nothing works better!
Note: Frank Smith, who holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University, has been a professor at universities in Canada and South Africa. He is an independent writer and researcher and is currently exploring the role of technology in education.